The two leading global causes of the death of children are pneumonia and diarrhoea, both preventable, both treatable, neither capturing the public imagination, neither having the power to solicit millions of pounds from popular fundraising and wealthy donors. Were they illnesses affecting significant numbers of people in Europe, there would be charities enjoying a high profile and dedicated to the prevention and eradication of the diseases and their causes, as it is the victims are predominantly children of poor families in poor countries.
It is not just in the response to disease that the priorities of affluent middle class people shape the agenda, political progress reflects the issues of interest to those of wealth and power. It is a modern heresy to suggest so, but the time and debate devoted to questions of sexuality is wholly disproportionate to the number of people affected. There are issues that have an impact upon the entire population that receive barely any attention; growing inequalities of wealth, the adequacy of the free market, the sustainability of economic growth; discussion of the nature of the society in which we live barely extends beyond fringe political groups who would seek a radical transformation of the social structure.
The prioritisation of concerns that are individual and personal over those that are matters for the whole community allows an avoidance of fundamental questions that might damage self-interest.
There is no forum where arguments over sexuality are more of a godsend than the church. Liberals can strike postures on being inclusive and progressive and persuade themselves they are engaging with the critical issues of the day, and ask no questions about economics or justice or peace. Conservatives can claim to be the upholders of tradition and biblical values, focusing upon an eclectic handful of bible verses and avoid the hundreds of verses that speak of the absolute dignity of the individual, societies based on fair principles and a world order based on co-operation and non-violence. Whether Jesus of Nazareth would have found either side congenial would be questionable.
The preferences and inclinations of affluent middle class people clearly shape our response to disease, to remove the scourges of pneumonia and diarrhoea would demand addressing the poverty in which they exist and the causes of that poverty – it would challenge the self-interest of those of us who are wealthy. Equally, to address social injustice and unsustainable economics at home would mean a social discourse where issues of sexuality receive attention that is proportionate to their importance and a willingness to accept that change and sacrifice will affect every one of us.